September 11, 2008

Allegedy inflated appraisal made prior to construction of new home cannot support a fraudulent misrepresentation claim; Court endorses "cost approach"


Homeowners filed suit against Appraiser for intentional and negligent misrepresentation and violation of the Tennessee Consumer Protection Act. Appraiser moved for summary judgment on all claims. The trial court denied Appraiser's motion on the negligent misrepresentation claim, but dismissed the intentional misrepresentation claim and the Tennessee Consumer Act claim. During the course of the proceedings, the trial court also excluded certain witnesses who were tendered as experts. Both parties appeal. We affirm the trial court's grant of summary judgment on both claims, and decline to address the remaining issues for lack of justiciability.

Opinion may be found at the TBA website:

"The Appraiser contends that the appraisal is an estimation or opinion, and is not a representation of an existing or past fact. Therefore, the Appraiser argues, an essential element of the Homeowners’ claim for intentional misrepresentation is conclusively negated and summary judgment was proper on this claim. Homeowners argue that the appraisal value was not the opinion of the Appraiser, but rather an opinion he gave which the Appraiser did not have or knew to be false. Although Homeowners’ argument applies to the fourth element for fraudulent misrepresentation, their contention does not change the requirement of the first element - that the defendant make a representation of an existing or past fact. In Tennessee, appraisals are not considered facts, but rather estimates or opinions." Id.

"Further, we note that when the Appraiser conducted the Appraisal, he was appraising a home that had not yet been constructed. The Appraiser used the “cost approach” analysis, and referred to, among other resources, the specifications and building plans provided by the Homeowners. At that point, the Appraiser only had plans for the future Home on which to base his appraisal; he could not verify that the materials planned for in the Home were actually used in the construction or examine the workmanship of the construction. In Tennessee, conjecture or representations concerning future events are not actionable even though they may later prove to be false." Id. (citations omitted).